Capitalism and Ground Rent
Before discussing the domination of capitalism over agriculture, we should agree on what capitalism is. It does not come within the purview of conventional economics or sociology. It is possible to get as far as a doctorate in social science in the United States without knowing that one lives in a capitalist society! The basic concepts of social science are ahistorical: the three ‘factors’ of production (nature of land, capital—synonymous with production equipment—and labor) are combined in an infinite number of ways, always according to the well-known technical formulas of the society under study. Social science is not based on history, and even when history is not reduced to a direct sequence of events, it does not go beyond a comparative description of institutions and of social, moral, political, or aesthetic ideas. Sociology is grafted on to this shapeless mass; its aim is to examine, in terms of functionality, whether parts of social life, taken at random, are satisfactory or not. It is a risky proposition to study the birth and development of capitalism within this framework: if capitalism is confused with the use of the (so-called) factor capital, i.e., tools, then it has always been in existence. It is also often confused with commodity exchange. As a result, to some people a study of the development of capitalism in a particular sector boils down to a quantitative measure of the increase in capital equipment and of the expansion of trade.